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We use ad-blockers as well, you know. We gotta keep those servers running though. Did you know that we publish useful books and run friendly conferences — crafted for pros like yourself? E.g. upcoming SmashingConf Barcelona, dedicated to smart front-end techniques and design patterns.

A Never-Ending Story On Ad-Blockers

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In attempts to fight back against the growing adoption of ad-blockers, many publishers and ad-dependent websites adopt all kinds of techniques from introducing “light” paywalls to limiting access to the site to fully blocking ad-blocker users from accessing the content altogether.

It seems a bit ironic that a website would send away potential customers that are taking measures to actually access the site faster, and read the content published on the site without annoying distractions. Don’t get me wrong: publishers need to earn money, and in most cases advertising is still the most efficient way of doing this. We know it better than anybody: with our smart tech-savvy audience, the ad-blocker usage has grown from 12% in 2012 to 55% today (as of March 2016). That’s a huge growth, and it’s a tendency that hurts us massively.

The vast minority of our readers doesn't use ad-blockers.1
Only 25% of our readership do not use ad-blockers. Source.2

But here at Smashing Magazine, we understand why people like yourself are using ad-blockers. And the reasons are obvious: speed, performance, privacy, security, a distraction-free reading experience. In fact, some readers might feel offended by the sheer number of ads on this very page. We get that. Although we’re trying to make sure that our display advertising isn’t obtrusive — you hardly find any annoyingly disturbing and animated ads anywhere on the site — we do understand why ad-blockers are so popular, and we understand that they aren’t going anywhere. It’s not your fault though, it’s our problem; and it’s a problem that we, and many other publishers, have to solve if we want to stay relevant.

How Do You Deal With Ad-Blockers? Link

Well, as a website owner, you have a few options to choose from, and your choice will definitely depend on the loyalty of your readership and the impact that advertising has on your revenue stream. You could:

  • detect ad-blocker users and force them to either unblock the site or get a subscription, or buy a product,
  • introduce a paywall, effectively blocking content from social media altogether,
  • limit the number of “free” page impressions on your site,
  • ask users for a regular monthly donation in exchange for an “ad-free” experience,
  • use affiliate links to earn on purchases made by your users,
  • publish sponsored content to close the gap caused by ad-blockers,
  • create and prominently highlight your services and products to encourage visitors to support the site and enjoy the ad-free experience.

All of these options have upsides and downsides, so let’s take a closer look at them, and figure out what could be working for you.

Blocking Ad-Blocker Users Link

If you have serious issues with ad-blockers, it might seem tempting to jump to the tough decision to block users who don’t see the ads on your site. That means that you would display a page prompting users to whitelist the site in ad-blocker settings, or purchase a subscription. In fact, the NY Times3, Washington Post4, Wired5, Bild.de6, and a few others are now blocking ad-blocker users from accessing the site altogether.

The main idea behind this approach is a dangerous one: in many cases, site owners consider ad-blocker users not to be important or valuable. After all, these users benefit from the website and use its bandwidth without giving something in return. That’s not entirely true. Indeed, the user might not be giving something back on that particular visit, but over time they build trust, loyalty and community that is extremely valuable. These are the people that are most likely to purchase your products if you offer valuable products to them. They aren’t “freeloaders”; they are your most precious assets.

Yet in my experience from working with large publishers, (fortunately or unfortunately) blocking ad-blocker users works fairly well. Depending on the nature of a website, you are very likely to lose a large portion of overall traffic (often around 30–40%), but you will gain advertising traffic that you didn’t have before, and that you can monetize, and consequently your revenue will increase. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to remain high long-term though since you are losing traffic after all, but it’s certainly a quick and relatively easy win.

However, by effectively blocking a major segment of your users, you potentially alienate loyal readers who actually care about your brand. So if you also offer products and services, you are likely to lose (many) potential customers. Frankly, nobody wants to buy a product in a shop where they seem to be unwelcome and disrespected.

Another problem is the actual detection and blocking of ad-blocker-users. Because ad-blocker extensions are installed in the browser and act as filters or proxy engines, they can block pretty much every script running on the page, and this includes scripts detecting other scripts that block advertising scripts on the site. In fact, there are tools like Anti AdBlock Killer7 which block scripts blocking ad-blocking extensions.

It might be a matter of days now until major ad-blocking extensions implement scripts like that one within the extensions — it’s already possible with uBlock8, for example. In fact, native ad-blocking9 might become a major new breed of ad-blocking applications. In this fight, ad-blocking tools seem to have the upper hand — it takes a silent update of the filter list for a website ad-block detection script to be blocked.

Twitter Poll on Ad Blocking Options10
The overwhelming majority would rather abandon a (news) site rather than unblock it, or pay for it. Source.11

At this moment, we’re running a little poll on Twitter12 to understand what our (tech-savvy) audience would do once blocked from access to a site. The results are quite clear: a vast majority would switch to another (freely accessible) website (72%) while a good number of people would unblock the site (23%) and only few would actually purchase a subscription (5%). Again, depending on the nature and uniqueness of your site, you’re likely to lose a major portion of your readership. It’s a tough risk to take, especially considering that ad-blocker usage is on the rise.

Introducing a Paywall Link

An even tougher approach is to put on a paywall for the entire site, blocking both ad-blocker users and pretty much everybody else (except Googlebot, potentially) from accessing the site. This way, you are forcing users to purchase a subscription to access the site, and you make your website both exclusive and, well, invisible.

With a paywall, the presence of articles published on the site in social media will be extremely limited since readers will know that most of their followers or friends won’t be able to read the article — just because they don’t have access to the site. (The same holds true for ad-blocker blocking websites, too, by the way.) One way to deal with this issue is by allowing paying customers to share articles by using their unique public ID, so public tweets with a link will be visible, but direct links without a public ID will not, as done by DeCorrespondent.nl13 (via Vasilis van Gemert).

The conversion for the paywall subscription might be low, very low, or extremely low, but depending on the price and the unique nature of your content, it might be worth it. One way or another, it might be difficult to attract new subscribers, unless you leave an “open door” to newcomers — providing access to 10–20 articles on the site for free, every month. In fact, the latter is probably necessary to “soften” the tough impact of content blocking and attract interest to your website.

Asking For Regular Donation Link

By using ad-blockers, users clearly state that they want to access your site, but don’t want to see the ads. Well, you could just listen to them, and ask for a regular donation in return for not seeing any ads. You don’t have to block them from accessing the site, but you could make it very clear that the site can’t exist without donations.

Personally, I don’t think that it’s a viable option. We’ve seen that services like Flattr14 that encourage readers to support creators making the web, never took off in terms of wide adoption, and it’s true for donations in general. In my experience, donations are often perceived to be a one-way conversation where you donate money to a service without getting something in return. Well, you do get an ad-free experience (and probably a clear conscience), but it’s not tangible, and as such not sustainable for regular, ongoing, recurring, long-term revenue stream.

Users might donate once or twice, and perhaps for six months or so, but because they don’t get much in return, it’s unlikely they’ll stick to it. After all, they were getting the content for free in the past, so there is nothing extra added on top of the previous experience, except for the fact that they are supposed to pay now. A service or a product that interests your readers is more likely to remain sustainable than a donation alone would be.

If you don’t want to force users into subscriptions, yet you suffer a lot from decreasing advertising revenue, you could consider reinventing the way advertising is presented on your site. You might think about hard-coding some ads on the page and playing with common ad sizes to make them slightly more difficult to detect by ad-blockers. You might also publish articles with affiliate links, earning money by getting a cut from products sales that might be of value to your users. There is nothing wrong about it as long as you are honest about it and do provide unbiased, trusted recommendation to genuinely valuable products.

You could also publish sponsored content that would appear in the regular stream of articles, but should clearly be highlighted as a “sponsored” article — otherwise, the trust you’ve built with your readers over the years will be gone in a blink of a few suspiciously one-sided posts.

However, the need to earn money will have a heavy impact on your editorial work since at some point you might be unwilling to publish an article criticizing the company that just purchased a few sponsored posts on your site. The objectivity of your editorial work suffers, and even years later, you’re quite unlikely to take a strong stand against this very company or their products. As a journalist, it’s limiting, and it’s dangerous.

Prominently Highlight Your Products Link

So if you can’t (or don’t want to) rely on advertising alone, you’ve got to create services or products that would bring you the revenue you need to maintain the site. There is no other way. It doesn’t have to mean extra work though. You could bundle articles from your site, edit them, add some imagery and produce an eBook. Or release a bundle of icons, or add nifty features to your site that would make it attractive to pay for a weekly subscription. It’s more than a mere donation because the reader is getting something in return for their payment.

Twitter Poll on Ad Blocking Options15
We display a friendly notification to ad-blocker users who read our articles. Large view.16

Then you can (try to) detect if users are using ad-blockers and push your products a bit more prominently. The downside is that you don’t know if you’ll gain a good enough traction to cover your expenses, so in the beginning, you’re likely to have both the advertising and your own prominent product highlights — and then you iterate, to figure out what actually appeals to your users. In fact, you could just ask them, and pivot your strategy based on the feedback you receive. It’s way better than pushing advertising over the edge or forcing readers to purchase a subscription that they don’t need.

The Smashing Strategy: Products + Membership Link

The way we decided to approach the issue is by prominently highlighting our products once we know that a user is using an ad-blocker. You might have noticed a little friendly box appearing on the top of the page, with links to a variety of our products. Basically, we’ve customized Christian Heilmann’s AdBlock-Honeypot-detection script17 to our needs, and so for every user, we display this box for a good number of visits (10–15 visits) and then it disappears for a few weeks. It’s simple, yet it’s been efficient so far.

We don’t think that this will be enough, though. We have many internal conversations on how to close the gap that we have with advertising revenue, and we think about highlighting existing products — books18, eBooks19, job board20, conferences and workshops21 — as well as produce brand new products, new services and a membership for readers of the site.

However, we firmly stand behind our decision to keep the content of the site accessible no matter what happens. Fullstop. We have to reinvent our monetization strategy, and we believe that we are on a good path there. We’re still collecting data, and we’re still considering options, and we will present our thoughts and findings in future posts.

Summary Link

I strongly believe that blocking loyal readership isn’t a reasonable option for any website. Relying on donations for an “ad-free experience” is unlikely to work either. As publishers, we all have to figure out a way to initiate an honest, direct conversation with our readers and find a respectful and profitable way of dealing with the ad revenue gap. It’s perfectly fine and necessary to earn money, and it’s important to respect the work that goes into producing and distributing good content. Quality content is expensive22 and time-consuming, and we shouldn’t pretend that readers don’t care, or don’t appreciate the work that goes into publishing. I sincerely believe that this isn’t true.

For ad-blocker users, you could potentially restrict access to the entire content, or provide a little extra service that would justify a subscription or a series of quality products that deliver value to your readers.

Fighting against ad-blocking extensions is a fight against windmills. Ad-blockers have the upper hand, and while advertising will evolve, and it will become less disturbing and annoying, it remains to see if the trust users lost in traditional display advertising can be regained. We sincerely hope so, but we can’t be certain.

I do know one other thing for sure, though. Over the years, I’ve been following a simple principle: “always under-promise, and always over-deliver.” You make a lasting impression, you make it clear that people you are working with matter, and you do the best you can to deliver quality work to your clients. It has worked very well for me. Instead of sending people away from your site, be welcoming and understanding, be respectful, honest and delightful, and who knows, maybe you’ll win a loyal, engaged and respectful audience that will be willing to pay for your products way more than you expected them to pay in the first place.

(vf)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://twitter.com/smashingmag/status/695910337913167873
  2. 2 https://twitter.com/smashingmag/status/695910337913167873
  3. 3 http://www.nytimes.com/
  4. 4 https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  5. 5 http://www.wired.com/
  6. 6 http://www.bild.de/
  7. 7 http://reek.github.io/anti-adblock-killer/
  8. 8 https://twitter.com/helloanselm/status/708186548118814724
  9. 9 http://adage.com/article/digital/opera-debuts-browser-native-ad-blocking-technology/303052/
  10. 10 https://twitter.com/smashingmag/status/707854480956657664
  11. 11 https://twitter.com/smashingmag/status/707854480956657664
  12. 12 https://twitter.com/smashingmag/status/707854480956657664
  13. 13 https://decorrespondent.nl
  14. 14 https://flattr.com/
  15. 15 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/
  16. 16 https://media-mediatemple.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ad-block-notification-opt.png
  17. 17 https://www.christianheilmann.com/2015/12/25/detecting-adblock-without-an-extra-http-overhead/
  18. 18 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/books/
  19. 19 https://shop.smashingmagazine.com/products/the-smashing-library
  20. 20 http://jobs.smashingmagazine.com/
  21. 21 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/smashing-workshops/
  22. 22 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/09/good-content-is-too-valuable-to-die/
SmashingConf Barcelona 2016

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    Jason Houston

    March 11, 2016 2:44 pm

    What about Native Advertising? How does an Ad-blocker know if your content is an ad and is not? I would think keeping this updated to “trick” Ad-blockers would be beneficial. Although, people can always just use the “Reader” button to get to the content without using an Ad-blocker.

    Great article Vitaly. Your site has been my browser’s homepage for years. No Adblockers here. You have always had great reading material so I am happy to click on your ads and buy your products. Thank you…

    2
  2. 2

    Ivan Brezak Brkan

    March 11, 2016 2:59 pm

    While I agree with most of your post, we do have to keep in mind that specifically changing formats, such as in the case of sponsored post, is still the same monetization strategy (business model). Sorry to nickpick, but I’m growing increasingly frustrated with people outside media saying how the media needs to change its business model, while talking JUST about banners. Banners aren’t the only part of the ad-supported business model :) Especially when they are subtle, well targeted and make sense, such as in the case of SM!

    7
    • 3

      Vitaly Friedman

      March 11, 2016 3:01 pm

      Good point, Ivan! I’d definitely argue for a more diversified revenue stream which isn’t based on advertising alone, and I absolutely agree with your point. Sponsored content is another form of display advertising — it’s just it’s difficult to block. Would love to see more stable revenue streams coming from selling products, goods and services though.

      4
    • 4

      “Subtle” is NOT what I’d take this nearly fully loaded ad sidebar for … and the show-blocker between “replies” and the actual comment section.

      If you REALLY want to know about “subtle”, try design-tagebuch.de. That has always been MY favorite when it comes to “subtle”, unobtrusive ads. Two small logos at the top of the sidebar, also small, quadratic “suggesions”, and then just two of them and NOT blarring whooping 8 – 10 banners, in the sidebar, plus a few “Links”, which often are quite interesting, because .. they are very specific to my line of work. Still not blarring, jumping in your face.

      The only one thats a tad wee bit more obnoxious, is the one ad displayed right before the comment section. It’s also one using either a supercookie or based upon the Google tracking system, as it clearly shows VERY customized ads (eg. pizza.de, which supplies online ordering options for – guess what – pizza and similar delivery services; and which I’ve just recently used).

      That’s also the only one I’m blocking, because trackers and supercookies are a total no-go (instant blacklisting in my case, including the company behind) ;)

      @Vitaly Friedman: So, yes, you still could learn a bit about unobtrusive and subtle ads, just by taking a look how Achim Schaffrina of dt does it ;)

      cu, w0lf.

      -3
  3. 5

    The problem with advertising on 90 percent of sites is that the people who run the site exercise no control over the ads. So off we go on a race to the bottom where third-party ad networks show deceptive or malicious advertising that tricks people into clicking, or outright exploits and infects their computer. And if the ads are slow or disrupt your ability to actually *read* the site? It’s just a cost of doing business.

    This state of affairs isn’t any better for a legitimate advertiser than it is for the visitor to the site, either. The current system of ad networks makes advertisers a cash cow to be milked just to the point before they give up because there is no ROI. Sites are getting revenue by unknowingly taking their cut of widespread click fraud and other dirty tricks.

    Ad blockers are just the end user applying the only bandage they have to an injury that goes much deeper and wider than that, one that they can’t heal by themselves. We need to heal the whole user-publisher-advertiser system before this will be fixed.

    37
  4. 7

    Great article Vitaly.

    For me it’s not advertisements themselves which are the biggest problem, but the tracking involved with them. A few ads here or there are not the problem as long as they’re not blinking or blocking the content. The problem is the dozens or hundreds of advertisement platforms tracking each and every website I visit and building personal profiles of me. It would be like shops in the real world would put bracelets on you and tracking you in each and every store you visit next. Everybody agrees that such a thing would be ridiculous, illigal and creepy. But on the web it’s normal.

    32
  5. 8

    How about just stop using 3rd party embed/scripts/iframes and use an API that doesn’t track people, but allows for opt-in personalisation, which is increasingly common. Why not embrace that and take on the extra processing cost in exchange for giving people the privacy they want from being tracked while retaining the same valuable metrics, but with more control over segmentation and customer-engagement opportunities?

    Relying on 3rd parties is a bad idea at the best of times, especially with how invasive they are these days.

    13
    • 9

      Halting use of 3rd party ad networks is also a deal-breaker for many sites because the 3rd party networks secure the most lucrative deals with large advertisers, and consequently pay much, much better than direct ad sales do. Plus, many sites simply don’t have their own local ad sales staff, so how are they going to track down and entice enough advertisers to fill their ad inventory? That’s what the 3rd party networks are good at and what they’re for.

      3
  6. 10

    I like how you say it is a problem of the site, because it is, advertiser where so free to do anything they wanted that now they feel like the simple use of ad-block is a war, a war against the readers, is funny that they are so scared of the idea of no using smart-ads anymore, like if that idea was so extreme.

    When i was younger and i wanted to buy a magazine i would first try to look at it to see if it was good enough, i would look a couple of pages and if i liked it i would buy one that was sealed, in the case that all of then where sealed i would try another magazine, in the actuality i do something similar, my first visit is always with ad-block, after i read 2/3 articles i decided if i keep visiting that Website or no, i see the quality, the amount of add per page and the general feeling i get from that site.

    The thing is that If the owner of the place did not permit to read anything before buying, i would just go to another place.

    The times are changing, so instead of trying to fight it we should be trying to adapt and evolve, each day become harder to survive only using ads, then you either start using Clickbait (one of the reasons i started using ad-block) or search how to diversify your income.

    TL;DR as long you offer a good product, treat well your users and the ads don’t feel so invasive i(and many) will return and disable ad-block, and diversification of income is always good.

    4
    • 11

      “TL;DR as long you offer a good product, treat well your users and the ads don’t feel so invasive i(and many) will return and disable ad-block, and diversification of income is always good.”

      Because that is a myth. People rarely disable an ad-blocker, even if they love a site, just because they’re politely asked to do so, or because they want to support the site. A handful of people will — a small percentage — but the vast majority of visitors simply won’t do it. They need to be incentivized to do it, forced to do it somehow, or the site needs to do as this article suggests and supplement lost ad revenue through other streams.

      0
    • 12

      Wendy Cockcroft

      March 11, 2016 9:29 pm

      I agree. Wired won’t let me use their site even when I’ve “allowed all this page.” I’m more inclined to support those websites that let me read their content without calling me a freeloader for not paying at the door first, kind of thing. The tollbooth approach is the wrong one. Letting readers contribute for extra value is the better way to go.

      3
  7. 13

    Anybody watch the recent South Park episode about the unstoppable ads?

    2
  8. 15

    Wired is the perfect example of a site where they just don’t handle things well.

    Whenever I go to wired.com, the ads take a very long time to load. The result is that for about 5-15 seconds, the ads keep taking up new space, which repositions all the blocks on the page constantly, and the page is only “still” until all the ads have been loaded. I don’t mind the ads themselves, but I do mind how they reshuffle the page for a while.

    Thing is, wired.com might not even need ads that much. Some of their best articles are available for free on the website. That’s nice, but by doing that, they’re stealing from themselves doing that; it’s potentially taking away sales from the magazine (why buy the mag if the great articles are available for free online?), and they shouldn’t have to compensate those losses by adding ads. They should reconsider their model. Perhaps only use article teasers on the site, and let people buy the mag (or use a paywall) to read the entire article.

    That sounds like a flawed model as well, but Wired IS one of the few publications where the articles are so good and so interesting (with a consistent level of quality), that people WILL pay to read quality stuff. I know I would.

    As long as they use a model that can be “hacked”, they’ll always be one step behind the user.

    Unless, of course, this is all an elaborate ploy, and they only add ads to their site to make that reading experience so annoying, that people will turn to the magazine again…

    9
    • 16

      Wired’s extortion model has p**** me off so much that I have deleted all of my bookmarks and even deleted every link and reference to wired articles in my blogs and websites, there were many. I hope others follow suit to send them a message that it’s an absurd and hopefully unsustainable practice.

      7
      • 17

        I have a WIRED magazine subscription for one reason. I appreciate the work they do. You should try it – supporting things you like.

        0
        • 18

          I would get a subscription if it wouldn’t be so darn expensive in Canada, compared to the US. I’m sure it’s out of their hands, but whereas the US can get 6 issues for $5, I would have to pay $40 for 12 issues. Not steep by itself, but I’ll stick with buying them every now and then in the shops.

          0
    • 19

      Wait. Wired tries to block me if I have an adblocker on? I haven’t seen that. I guess my adblocker works ¯_(ツ)_/¯

      3
  9. 20

    This is one of the most thoughtful articles on the topic I have ever read, culminating in the sentence “I strongly believe that blocking loyal readership isn’t a reasonable option for any website.”

    Want real-life proof in the data? Here we go: Bild.de was a ‘pioneer’ in locking out users. Here’s Bild.de’s traffic (as measured on Alexa.com) – guess when they started blocking their loyal readership?

    Source: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/bild.de

    5
    • 21

      I believe you’re oversimplifying your assumption with the drop in traffic for Bild.de. I do agree with your assessment on how their actions are likely affecting readership, but there is a much bigger reason for the drop. German publishers, including Bild.de, sued Google for including snippets of their news in search results. These publishers claimed copyright infringement for using snippets and demanded Google pay licensing fees to display article snippets. Google refused to pay and responded by removing all snippets. Without the snippets, articles from German publishers, like Bild.de and Bunte.de, tanked in search results. This coincides with the drop for the time period referenced in Alexa.

      0
  10. 22

    “[…] blocking both ad-blocker users and pretty much everybody else (except Googlebot, potentially) from accessing the site.”

    That gives me an idea for extension that changes useragent for sites that have paywall, just like ad-block with autoupdating filter lists. :D

    2
    • 23

      I personally think that paywall is even worse option than ads. It’s very agressive move and it denies user to determine the value of content they would get for their money. Alot of articles can be just clickbait without any value and I would never risk to sponsor such things. But there are (very few) cases where it’s appropriate, but then the source is usually already established as trustworthy and offers real undeniable value to their specific userbase. Those sites had paywalls already for years.

      2
  11. 24

    Carlos Escribano Rey

    March 11, 2016 8:06 pm

    Ok, ok, I will disable AdBlocker just for your site. You provide great content for free and your ads doesn’t put my MBP on fire so… why not?

    7
  12. 25

    Matthew Trow

    March 11, 2016 8:39 pm

    It makes me wonder whether there’s a market for some kind of ‘collective’ for websites, whereby a subscription covers multiple sites within a specific genre?

    Perhaps a credit based system could be used, the more you visit, the more you pay?

    A credit provider acts as the middle-man between users and websites.
    The cost could be exceptionally low – it only needs to match the potential revenue derived from advertising, but results in an ad-free experience.

    In an ideal world, the cost could potentially be baked into your ISP monthly bill.

    It sounds horrendously complicated, I admit, but anything is better than the current situation!

    1
    • 26

      Matthew Trow

      March 11, 2016 8:43 pm

      … thinking more on this, the advertising networks themselves could provide that infrastructure, assuming they could agree to work together to create a universal sign-in credit based system.

      The ideal situation is that the end result should be as seamless as possible for both website owners and users.

      1
      • 27

        Matthew Trow

        March 11, 2016 8:45 pm

        … the caveat being that if you block ads and don’t pay, you don’t get the content … hmmm.

        0
  13. 28

    Publishers can sign up for Adblock’s Acceptable Ads program for free. It’s enabled in AdBlock clients by default. The only thing required is to make these ads abide community-made acceptable ad criteria. Everybody wins except annoying ad networks with tracking/popup/autoplay/disguised clickbaits and shady practices. As it should be in the first place.

    3
  14. 29

    Chris Panayotov

    March 11, 2016 10:47 pm

    Interesting discussion. I personally very much like the content of a local site, but it is full with very distracting ads. I end up writing chrome extension that visually hides some stuff, re-arrange the layout and makes my experience much better. With my solution ( I”m not worried about the privacy on this particular site ) the site editors get their money from advertisers, I have distraction-free reading and both parties are ok. The “loosers” are advertisers, but I wouldn’t click on ad anyway. I think that in time extensions that use similar methods will be much more common.

    1
  15. 30

    Thanks for this interesting article!

    One more way of fighting with adblock, i think it more applicable for media content. At our websites we use a 30 seconds delay (only for users with adblock).

    http://www.cc.com/video-clips/wln8c8/-midnight-with-chris-hardwick-extended—-midnight-tournament-of-champions—meet-the-finalists

    In this way content is still shareable and may actually force users to watch ad as it’s more interesting than waiting 30 seconds in silence.

    What do you think about it?

    -3
    • 31

      Sorry, but this is the most stupid idea I have read in a whole week (at least)…

      It’s not about how to force users/readers to watch ads, videos or whatever, but how you treat them. It’s a matter of respect.

      Your readers are not your enemy, just because they are p*** by the overwhelming ads they are confronted with all day long.

      As Vitaly already pointed out, there are a couple of options for your revenue model out there – but locking out readers deliberately is one of the worst.

      3
      • 32

        Is it really though? This website and others like it aren’t free. They cost money to run, cost money to create content, people have to be paid for their time. Who cares if someone is a “reader” if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain? They’re not a customer anymore if they’re consuming the product for free.

        I have no problem with ad blockers, but I also have no problem with websites that use an ad based business model refusing to give away their content for free.

        0
        • 33

          I’ll jump in here – I didn’t go through all the comments so forgive me if I’m repeating what has already been said… I work in the online publishing industry as a designer so my job is typically *at odds* with the business’ monetary goals. However I really don’t think the problem is the ads themselves. The problem is the *abuse* of ads. having 9 ads on a page is ridiculous. Serve a single ad on the page at a premium price and the vast majority of users would be happy.

          Having one higher priced ad means that yes it will be harder to sell, but ultimately you only need to sell one positions vs having to sell 9+ cheap positions. Less ads means faster and less distracting pages (happy users), less competing ads one the page (happy advertisers) and less selling (happy sales). You just need to bump up the price.

          – My 2 cents.

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  16. 34

    Once trust is broken it is very hard to fix.

    I use an adblocker and whitelist very few sites e.g. stackoverflow, player.arsenal.com; I white player arsenal because the content is that valuable to me and I whitelist stackoverflow because they instilled a trust in me from the very beginning.

    Ads on smashing magazine have been so bad. Performance of the site is/was one of the worst due to ads. Adblocking fixes this. I’m unlikely to every whitelist smashing magazine because the damage has probably already been done.

    This page, example, without my adblocking has 77 reqs, 445.95 KB, ~3.95s no-cache. With my ad blocking? 32 reqs, 320 KB ~2.07s.

    1
  17. 36

    Fighting against ad-blocking extensions is a fight against windmills.

    If it just were that simple, fortunately. I do use ad-blockers, turned on by default, and for every site. I don’t mind ads either, on the other hand.

    But I do care about my web experience. And for ads it has been bad (numerous times) – Flash being used more than often to actively grab my attention. I’m here (and you could let that be as well any other site) for the content. If an ad is 200 times more prominent than what I’m looking for, I’m really in-the-biz for an ad-blocker. If that happens to me on more than 5 sites, even more so. The web experience has taught me these stories all over. So my reaction is clear (because I just can’t flip the page to get rid of it like in good ol’ fashioned magazines).

    However, the ads for Smashing Magazine’s book didn’t disturb me at all. I didn’t even think of using my Adblocker’s feature to block static known content. They probalbly just didn’t scream at me enough.

    So for me there is something besides UX – and I call it AX: Advertising Experience. If it’s well balanced compared to the content I’m looking for, I will not only accept but also consume it and may even reflect it. And by that I’ll be a better reciever – and not the black sheep with an ad-blocker meant to be fighted.

    I’m not blaming Smashing Magazone to put lite ads on me by using the ad-blcoker. I’m blaming the majority of content providers to not care about the content-ad ratio balance to no tgive me heart attacks for literally every page visit.

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    • 37

      What’s more, so far it’s been a very binary decision: accept (all) ads or don’t at all. It’s been not possible for me to decide on the level of ads I actually do accept. “Acceptable ads” go into this direction, but again, they don’t leave the choice to me, the user. The market would not only evolve but be more effective if there is a better competition including a dynamic level of acceptance (think “responsive ads”).

      2
      • 38

        Totally agreeing with you.

        At the current time, only the more advanced users or experts get the choice of “gradually allowing” ads. You just open the “blockable elements” list / window, and then unblock / disable those blocking rules you like. Maybe also use Element Hiding Helper to first block and then UNblock stuff. But that’s definitely not an acceptable method for regular usage, as its quite tedious and time-consuming work.

        cu, w0lf.

        0
  18. 39

    I would unblock ads if they didn’t assign you an ID that is tracked on every site you visit. Privacy and reading experience matters most to me. The more Apple and the govt fight over it, the more I realize the web is up to no good.

    1
  19. 40

    Vicki Nemeth

    March 12, 2016 4:51 am

    Try “dumb” ads. Curated pictures where the ads would go that look like ads, because that’s what they are. Print publications sell dumb adspace, and they figure out how much to charge using the size and demographics of their readership (those geniuses, how did they ever figure out how to valuate adspace without adtech?!). Dumb ads are a little like affiliate links and sponsored posts, but they don’t interfere with your site editorially. I don’t think adblockers would spot dumb ads since, technically, they would be indistinguishable from pictures on your site; they’re also safe for users’ computers. You know how to make them not so annoying.

    1
    • 41

      That is why I pointed out the design-tagebuch.de site (no, I’m NOT affiliated, thank you very much; just an avid reader) – it’s doing exactly that: Images and links. Nothing fancy, blarring, blinking. Just subtle suggestions that are explicitely announced as ads.

      The only ad-related part that I’m explicitely blocking (see my comment about “gradually allowing” ads from before) is the one commited by Google. Too much “customization” leads to feeling stalked, and thus is a sure case for the big nasty PLONK file.

      cu, w0lf.

      -1
  20. 42

    And yet, you keep serving us malware ads… Just had one hit tonight on another commercial website. Put strict block on its advertising elements. I don’t tolerate sites that serve from shady advertisers. I realize the sites I visit need monetary support and let a lot of advertising through, but I have a one strike rule.

    2

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